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Maroons Origin team CONFIRMED: Slater explains Fifita snub, Dearden pick over Mam, Cobbo's surprise switch

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26th May, 2024
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David Fifita was the big omission when Billy Slater named his team for Origin I on Monday morning despite the Titans star rebounding to top form in recent weeks after sorting out his controversial contract negotiations.

Fifita was the Titans’ best in their victory over Brisbane on Sunday, but that did little to win over Slater and the Maroons selectors.

Slater and fellow selectors Gene Miles and Darren Lockyer picked their 20-man squad on Sunday night and Dragons forward Jaydn Su’A beat Fifita for a starting second-row spot. There was no room for the Gold Coast marquee on the bench either.

“Dave created a really high standard for his footy last year, he just hasn’t quite got to that standard this year,” Slater said. 

“I spoke to Dave last night. He’s taken the disappointing news like a true Queenslander.

“I’ve no doubt that Dave will get back to the footy that he played last year and I’m sure he’ll wear a Maroon jersey in the future.”

Parramatta’s J’maine Hopgood will be Queensland’s sole debutant as an interchange forward.

Tom Dearden edged out Brisbane’s Ezra Mam for the No.6 jersey vacated by the injured Cameron Munster.

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Dearden, 23, did a fabulous job on Origin debut in game three of the 2022 series where he got late notice that Munster was out of the game and helped guide the Maroons to a 22-12 win.

Mam has been in electric form for the Broncos and announced himself as a big-game player by scoring three tries in last year’s NRL grand final.

“You don’t have to watch Tommy too long to understand what he brings to a footy team,” Slater said on Monday.

“The one thing that Queensland did have when Cameron Munster went down was quality players that could fill in that position, and Ezra Mam’s a part of the 20-man squad, and just like J’maine Hopgood last year, when you’re a part of the squad it means that you’re playing to the standard that this footy team’s created.

“This footy team’s created a really high standard, so there was probably not a wrong decision there, but I just feel that Tommy’s really earned this opportunity. He’s been playing great all year. He’s got great habits in his game, and he’s done a great job for Queensland in the past.”

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Queensland also sprung a surprise by naming Brisbane’s Selwyn Cobbo as a bench utility to cover injuries out wide, opening a spot for Murray Taulagi on the wing.

“Selwyn is a wonderful player. He’s a big lad. He’s very capable. He played a fair bit of centre this year,” said Slater.

“He played on the wing for Queensland. We saw what he did two weeks ago when he played fullback.

“Four out of the last six Origin games, we’ve had to replace an outside back. If that happens again, Selwyn’s a wonderful player to be on the bench, isn’t he?”

Maroons forward Patrick Carrigan was placed on report for a high shot on Titans opponent Josiah Pahulu on Sunday but the Broncos captain is unlikely to cop anything more than a fine from the match review committee.

The Maroons are depleted in the middle forwards, with Tom Gilbert and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui out with season-ending knee injuries. Dolphins prop Tom Flegler is also unavailable with a shoulder injury.

Brisbane forward Brendan Piakura has snared a spot on an extended bench along with Dolphins veteran Felise Kaufusi. Piakura and Mam are the only other uncapped players in the squad.

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13: Tom Dearden of the Maroons runs the ball during game three of the State of Origin Series between the Queensland Maroons and the New South Wales Blues at Suncorp Stadium on July 13, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Tom Dearden runs the ball. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Munster will miss the entire State of Origin series after scans revealed a tear in the Queensland five-eighth’s adductor tendon. 

Munster has been battling groin pain since first suffering the injury slipping in the shower during Melbourne’s pre-season trip to Fiji, missing the first month of the NRL season.

He will need between eight and 10 more weeks on the sidelines after aggravating the issue in a tackle just before half-time in the Storm’s 48-16 defeat of Parramatta at Magic Round.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 12: Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow of the Maroons celebrates with team mates after a try scored by David Fifita during game three of the State of Origin series between New South Wales Blues and Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on July 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Maroons team

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1 Reece Walsh (Broncos)
2 Xavier Coates (Storm)
3 Valentine Holmes (Cowboys)
4 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (Dolphins)
5 Murray Taulagi (Cowboys)
6 Tom Dearden (Cowboys)
7 Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles)
8 Reuben Cotter (Cowboys)
9 Ben Hunt (Dragons)
10 Lindsay Collins (Roosters)
11 Jaydn Su’A (Dragons)
12 Jeremiah Nanai (Cowboys)
13 Patrick Carrigan (Broncos)
14 Harry Grant (Storm)
15 Moeaki Fotuaika (Titans)
16 J’maine Hopgood (Eels)
17 Selwyn Cobbo (Broncos)
18 Felise Kaufusi (Dolphins)
19 Brendan Piakura (Broncos)
20 Ezra Mam (Broncos)

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